CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
February 25, 2020
Forward Thinking

Study: Last-mile challenges drive change in freight landscape

Investment in last-mile startups more than doubled from 2017-2018, as the trend toward a more connected and automated supply chain continues, Deloitte researchers say.

The future of freight continues to evolve, as supply chains become more connected, holistic, and automated, according to a December study by Deloitte.

The "Future Movement of Goods" study points to a host of changes occuring in the freight landscape, especially when it comes to last-mile delivery. Investment in last-mile startups more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, reaching $3.9 billion and indicating a pending "significant disruption within the last mile of delivery," the study authors said.

"The foundation of a next-generation global movement of goods network is actively forming as companies of all sizes, including start-ups, put a focus on an end-to-end supply chain ecosystem with a critical eye on the last 1,000 feet of direct-to-consumer delivery," the study authors wrote. "From 2017 to 2018, the funding flow of "smart money" from capital investors to support last-mile delivery more than doubled. Plus, the trend of crowd-sourcing to accommodate and strengthen last-mile solutions for delivery of goods accounted for 72%, outpacing collection point network and lockers, digital aggregators, software and droids, and drones."

The authors explained that those trends are part of a larger shift in the freight industry toward a "next-generation supply chain" that is underpinned by three key elements: 

  • Connected community: The ability to collaborate and connect with partners to see across the network.
  • Holistic decision-making: The ability to harness and harmonize traditional and new data to continuously learn, optimize, and predict.
  • Intelligent automation: The ability to utilize the right human or machine for the task at hand and automate digital processes.

Such changes are creating a new ecosystem for the movement of goods—and requiring supply chain companies to evaluate where they stand in the new landscape so they can adapt to the changes, the authors also said.

"Over time, a global population of consumers demanding greater delivery volume, speed, flexibility, transparency, and convenience will force players to adapt. To get started, organizations should define their future ambitions and where to play in the future movement of goods ecosystem," Michael Daher, Deloitte principal and U.S. transportation practice leader said in a statement. "Guided by a strategic vision, organizations can begin examining how the foundational pillars, connected community, holistic decision-making, and intelligent automation, can help them win in chosen segments and markets—and the foundational and emerging capabilities required to enable those pillars."

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